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Did HHS sweep score under the rug? No

From NBC's Mark Murray
Earlier this morning, Republican aides seized on this potentially explosive charge: that the Obama administration swept under the rug an independent score on its health-care bill -- a week before passage -- that showed the legislation would actually increase health spending. 

The conservative American Spectator reported:

The economic report released last week by Health and Human Services, which indicated that President Barack Obama's health care "reform" law would actually increase the cost of health care and impose higher costs on consumers, had been submitted to the office of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius more than a week before the Congressional votes on the bill, according to career HHS sources, who added that Sebelius's staff refused to review the document before the vote was taken.

"The reason we were given was that they did not want to influence the vote," says an HHS source. "Which is actually the point of having a review like this, you would think."

A little back story: While the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the health-care legislation (Senate bill, plus reconciliation bill) would reduce the deficit by $138 billion over 10 years and $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years, the Office of the Actuary at HHS said last week that the new health-care law would raise health costs $311 billion from 2010 to 2019.

But after some digging, it's pretty clear that the Spectator report isn't accurate.

1. The Office of the Actuary didn't receive the language of the reconciliation bill until March 18 (when the legislation was posted), so the Spectator's assertion that HHS had a copy of the Actuary's score a week before congressional passage -- on March 22 -- doesn't make sense.

2. Past scores from the Office of the Actuary came out AFTER passage of the legislation. For the House bill that passed on Nov. 7, 2009, the Actuary's score came out on Nov. 13. And for the Senate bill that passed on Dec. 24, 2009, the Actuary's score came out on Jan. 8, 2010. This most recent Actuary report is dated April 22.

3. Given points #1 and #2, it's hard to see how the Actuary's score was available before the CBO's, which came out on March 18.